Congress of Santa Barbara
Congrès de Santa Barbara
Kongre Santa Barbara



Thirteen Haitian Scholars met in April 1997, at the University of California, Santa Barbara for a colloquium on Haitian Vodou, The Spirit and The Reality: Vodou and Haiti. At the end of the conference, these scholars decided to institutionalize their efforts through a new association under the name, The Congress of Santa Barbara.

Imbued by a sense of collective wisdom and aware of the long, difficult and constant struggles and crises undergone by their homeland, the Founders -- and others who might join them -- pledged to create a space where scholarship on Vodou can be augmented. Cognizant of the meaning and the implications of this historic reunion where Haitian scholars seized the initiative, the Congress proposes to have an impact on Haitian cultural politics as well as on other measures and policies that affect the Republic of Haiti.
The presence, role and importance of Vodou in Haitian history, society and culture are unarguable, and recognizably a part of the national ethos. The impact of the religion qua spiritual and intellectual disciplines on popular national institutions, human and gender relations, the family, the plastic arts, philosophy and ethics, oral and written literature, language, sacred and popular music, science and technology, and the healing arts, is indisputable. It is the belief of the Congress that Vodou plays and shall continue to play a major role in the grand scheme of Haitian development and in the socio-economic, political, and cultural arenas. It behooves the Congress to suggest and to participate in all endeavors and activities whose intent shall be to propel Haiti and its peoples to better, more prosperous and humanly fulfilling futures, via its ancient traditions and toward a path toward autochthonous development. Development, when successful and real, always comes from the modernization of ancestral traditions, anchored in the rich cultural expressions of a nation.

The Founders of the Congress of Santa Barbara invite all scholars and interested parties who subscribe to its goals and objectives, to join it in the defense and illustration of this poto-mitan of the Haitian cultural heritage that is such an integral
part of the country’s future.

Administrative Structure

A. The Board of Directors
The Congress of Santa Barbara shall be governed by a Board of Directors, whose membership shall consist of thirteen (13) Founding Members, with the addition of eight (8) Members, for a total of twenty-one (21) Directors.
The thirteen (13) Founding Members shall remain permanent members until resignation or their removal for cause by the full Board of Directors.
The eight (8) additional Members of the Board of Directors are elected in staggered terms of three (3) years, and are immediately eligible for reelection.
Election of the additional eight (8) Members of the Board of Directors shall be done by ballot of the membership, by lists prepared by the Nominations Committee.

B. The Executive Committee
An Executive Committee shall be elected from within the Board of Directors, and empowered to make routine administrative decisions under guidelines set by the Board of Directors, its acts and actions subject to the review of said Board.
The Executive Committee shall consist of the President, the Vice-President, the Secretary, the Treasurer, and the immediate Past President. It shall appoint an Executive Director, subject to ratification by the Board of Directors, who shall become an ex-officio member of the Executive committee. The offices of Secretary, Treasurer and Executive Director are compatible, and can be occupied by the same person, if the Board of Directors so chooses.
Fifty (50) percent of the Executive Committee shall be selected from the thirteen (13) permanent Members of the Board of Directors.
The Executive Committee shall cause the Board of Directors to meet in session, or alternatively, the Board of Directors can convene at the request of half of its membership.
The President and Vice-President shall be eligible for reelection for one (1) term following their initial election. The Secretary and the Treasurer shall be eligible for reelection without prejudice as to terms served.
The Executive Director serves at the pleasure of the Board of Directors, on advice from the Executive Committee.
Members of the Executive Committee are elected for three (3) year terms. They can be removed for cause, by a majority vote of the members of the Board of Directors, after a quorum has been achieved.
The provisions above shall be operative and take full effect starting at the time of Colloquium III.

Meetings and Colloquia

The Congress of Santa Barbara shall meet approximately every eighteen (18) months, after Colloquium II, held in the city of New York, in April 1998. More specialized gatherings can occur by a decision of the Board of Directors. Colloquia shall meet in the Republic of Haiti with some regularity, and shall take place elsewhere on a rotational basis in order to ensure fair access. The languages in which scholarly presentations can be made are Haitian (Creole), French and English. If conditions warrant, Spanish and Portuguese can be added to these languages.


The Board of Directors shall establish a number of standing or permanent committees that help it fulfill its tasks, and whose memberships need not come entirely from said Board. The Chair of each permanent committee, however, shall be a member
of the Board of Directors.
The Nominations Committee shall identify potential members of the Board of Directors and submit such lists to be voted upon by the general membership, in accord with regulations to be issued by the Board.
The Conference Committee shall be named by the Executive Committee after consultation with the Board of Directors. This Committee shall discharge its responsibilities under guidelines established by the Board, under the supervision of the Secretary or the Executive Director as its Chair. The Conference Committee shall select panels and panelists from all those submitted, or create panels and request participation as necessary for a successful colloquium. This Committee shall be formed immediately after each colloquium in order to prepare for the next colloquium, based on guidelines given to it by the Board of Directors. It shall work closely with the local Site Committee.
The Commission for the Study of Ritual shall consist primarily of manbo and oungan. The Board of Directors establishes the parameters of its action.
The Committee on Finance and Fund Raising is chaired by the Treasurer, and shall include some personnel with business and accounting acumen. The Board of Directors shall regulate its activity.
The Publications Committee shall be responsible for all official documents issued by the Congress of Santa Barbara, and all publications emanating from said organization. Its charge is part of internal regulations devised by the Board of Directors.
The Committee on National Development and the Environment shall have its purview defined by action of the Board of Directors in its internal regulations.
Other temporary or ad hoc committees shall be created by the Executive Committee or the President from time to time, after consultation with the Board of Directors, and after securing the Board’s permission.
The Site Committee is an ad hoc or temporary committee that shall consist of members in good standing in the locality in which a colloquium is to take place. Its functions shall be to raise monies, select appropriate sites, and tend to logistical matters to ensure a successful colloquium. It shall work closely with the Conference Committee. The Site Committee shall be disbanded after each colloquium after it has submitted a Financial Report to the Board of Directors, via the Executive Committee and the Treasurer.
All standing or permanent and all temporary or ad hoc Committees shall submit formal Reports to the Board of Directors via the Executive Committee.

General Membership

Any academic or independent scholar, Haitian or not, may apply for membership to the Congress of Santa Barbara, provided that she/he adheres and submits to the goals and objectives of the association as specified by the “Declaration of the Congress of Santa Barbara.” Voting privileges shall become effective at the next colloquium from the time of initial application. The Board of Directors shall set in place the modalities for the implementation of all rules that apply to the members of the Congress of Santa Barbara.


Dues and modalities for payment of said dues shall be set by the Board of Directors, on advice of the Executive Committee, and are subject to change by said Board. The Board shall be allowed to set sliding scales for membership dues based on income levels and geographic residence, in order to allow for widest possible participation by a diverse membership..

Ratification and Amendments

The By-Laws shall be ratified by a consensus of the initial Board of Directors, defined as the thirteen (13) Founding Members. If a consensus is not possible, by a vote of the thirteen (13) Founders.
Subsequent amendments to the By-Laws shall be by a two-thirds vote of the full Board of Directors.
The text of the “Declaration of the Congress of Santa Barbara” can never be amended.

General Provisions

Removal. Any member can have her/his membership revoked if deeds and words undertaken by such member is deemed detrimental to the Congress in the extreme. The Executive Committee, once apprised of the facts, shall so inform the Board of Directors on the matter. The member shall present her/his defense to the Board, and said Board shall decide by a vote, where a simple majority is sufficient to render a verdict. The process is done through formal written instruments. Spokespersons. Only the President, or in her/his absence, the Vice-President, shall speak for the whole Congress of Santa Barbara in her/his official capacity.